How safe do you feel when crossing a busy street or even walking down the road? With hit-and-run accidents on the rise, it helps to know which legal actions to take if it ever happens to you.
Fortunately, U.S. law has several provisions to deter drivers from running away from the scene of an accident. For instance, hit-and-runs attract fines of up to $5,000. There's also the possibility of license suspension and even incarceration.
With that in mind, this article will delve into the intricacies of dealing with hit-and-run accidents. We’ll evaluate everything from the possible legal and financial repercussions to what you should do after being involved in a hit-and-run.
What Is a Hit-and-Run?
In a typical car accident, drivers exchange information and, in some cases, report the accident to get a police report. However, this is not always the case. Some drivers may choose to flee the scene of an accident, leaving a trail of damage behind. That scenario is typically referred to as a hit-and-run.
That said, different states have unique established rules to determine when a driver should stop at an accident scene. As such, the very definition of a hit-and-run may vary according to jurisdiction.
However, there are certain commonalities across all states in the U.S. that dictate when a driver is obligated to stop at an accident scene. They include:
● When someone is injured in a crash
● When the crash causes property damage
● When someone loses their life as a result of the collision
In some cases, you may also be required to remain at an accident scene even if you weren't directly responsible or otherwise involved in the crash. For instance, if you suddenly make a lane change, causing other vehicles on the road to crash into each other, you're legally obligated to remain at the scene of the accident to make a police report.
Therefore, fleeing from a scene in such a scenario can also be classified as a hit-and-run, even though your vehicle did not crash into another vehicle.
Legal and Financial Repercussions of a Hit-and-Run
In 2021, there were 2,783 deadly crashes involving hit-and-runs. What's even more alarming is that these numbers represent an increase of 89.4% compared to the previous year, which had 1,469 crashes.
That said, the true cost of hit-and-run accidents cannot be solely measured in the number of lives taken. They also pose significant legal and financial repercussions, which could have life-changing consequences.
Some of the most common legal consequences of hit-and-runs include:
Fleeing from the scene of an accident is illegal and, therefore, could attract criminal charges. The severity of these charges depends on several factors, including property damage, the extent of injuries, and whether the driver has prior records of a similar offense.
Depending on the nature of the case, the court may level various penalties, including fines, community service, probation, license suspension or revocation, and incarceration.
In addition to criminal charges, the fleeing driver may face civil liability for the damage or harm caused. Personal injury law provides provisions for victims of hit-and-run accidents to seek compensation for their injuries, medical expenses, property damage, and pain and suffering.
Pursuing a personal injury case can be a strenuous process involving numerous complexities, such as gathering enough evidence and presenting it in a way that clearly shows that the fleeing driver was at fault. That's why it's always advisable to seek legal representation as soon as the accident occurs.
Hit-and-run accidents can also pose significant financial implications for both parties. For instance, the victim has to deal with the financial burden of medical bills, loss of income, and vehicle or other property repair/replacement.
Similarly, the fleeing driver may get a hefty fine. They also have to deal with the financial implications of seeking legal assistance and paying for damages, especially if the victim files a personal injury case against them.
Besides the financial and legal implications of hit-and-run accidents, they may also have an emotional toll on the victim and their family members, who have to deal with the traumatic experience and the possibility of abandonment if the victim succumbs to their injuries.
What to Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident
A hit-and-run accident can be a traumatic experience. The mere shock of it all is enough to leave anyone confused. However, the steps you take immediately after the accident could mean the difference between getting compensated for your injuries and the fleeing driver getting away with their crime.
In that regard, here's what you should do after a hit-and-run accident.
Assess Your Safety
While you may be tempted to chase after the fleeing driver, it's always advisable to first check yourself and others for injuries. While you're at it, make sure to check for any wounds or inhibited movement.
Call Emergency Services
You should always call emergency services, even if nobody was seriously hurt in the accident. They may help determine the actual severity of injuries and even detect potential internal injuries.
In most cases, emergency services are accompanied by the police, who may ask several questions to help determine the identity of the fleeing driver. You should also ask for a copy of the police report, as your insurer may request documentation before processing your settlement.
Compile Relevant Information
As you wait for the police to arrive, you should collect relevant information about the runaway driver. Some of the most important things to take note of include:
● The description of the fleeing driver's vehicle
● A description of the driver
● Photos of the damage to your vehicle
● Location, time, and cause of the accident
● Photos of the scene
Besides collecting relevant information, you should also inform your insurance provider and stay at the scene of the accident until law enforcement arrives.
Seek Legal Advice After a Hit-and-Run Accident
Hit-and-run accidents account for a significant portion of road fatalities. They also cause significant damage and can have far-reaching legal and financial implications. If you're involved in a hit-and-run accident, it is advisable to call the police and seek legal assistance to increase your chances of getting compensated.